The Queen’s Guard during a changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in London.
Many would consider being knighted or otherwise honored by England’s royals a dream come true. But more than 200 rebellious Brits have declined or returned the honor, refusing to hand their names and legacies over to rulers seeking to bolster their own dubious reputations. John Lennon and authors Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis are on that list.
As a contemporary of the 15th-century Italian artist said: “ ... The world has many kings, but only one Michelangelo.”
The words of the hero of E.E. Cummings’ poem, “i sing of olaf glad and big,” defiant in the face of brutal superiors and jeering, all-too-obedient peers; resolute to his mortal end, also come to mind. (Italics added.)
but—though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation’s blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat—
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
“there is some shit I will not eat”
In the past a number of famous people have rejected or returned honours bestowed upon them by the monarch.
Beatles legend John Lennon returned his MBE in 1969, with a note to the Queen saying: “Your Majesty, I am returning this in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts.